Around the world, members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community face great discrimination, ranging from being called derogatory names and being ostracized by their friends, family and community to being killed for their sexual orientation. Several surveys conducted in the United States and Canada indicated that sexual minority youth are much more likely to be bullied than heterosexual youth. A 2005 survey from the U.S. found that physical appearance and sexual orientation are respectively the top one and two reasons a student may be bullied. LGBT youth often miss school to avoid such bullying, and studies suggest they are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youths.
In the United States, a 2009 survey of U.S. students in Grades 6-12 found: 85 per cent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed at school in the previous year because of their sexual orientation, 40 per cent reported being physically harassed and 19 per cent reported being physically assaulted.
So are the experiences of Canadian LGBT youth any better? Not really. The 2009 Canadian Climate Survey on Homophobia found: 59 per cent of LGBT high school students reported they were verbally harassed, 25 per cent indicated being physically harassed, and 73 per cent felt unsafe at school. Earlier this year, some parents in Burnaby protested the Burnaby School Board’s decision to draft a policy that would support LGBT students and staff – a protest that was met by a counter-protest. (More recently, a study has found that schools that have inclusive policies such as Gay-Straight Alliances have less students who binge drink.)
What about incidents involving members of the South Asian community? Well, there really aren’t any specific statistics, but what we do know is that in the past decade or so, several South Asian men have been charged with attacks on same sex couples. These attacks prompted the Province and Xtra! Vancouver newspapers to shine a spotlight on our community and questions were raised about its level of tolerance towards LGBT people. In response, several LGBT South Asians pointed out that homophobia and intolerance are a concern amongst all communities – and the statistics above certainly corroborate this.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it within the South Asian community. In particular, we should ask how some men develop their ideas on masculinity and why some of them drink so much that they act in ways they otherwise might not (although of course alcohol isn’t an excuse) – that’s a question I think we can probably ask of all men who are verbally or physically violent towards members of the LGBT communities. I think we should also be telling our youth to treat others the way they want to be treated – that just like they wouldn’t want to be bullied for the colour of their skin or for what religion they may practice, youth who may have a sexual orientation that is different than theirs also deserve to live free of discrimination and bullying.
For those who are uncertain about their sexual orientation, or are LGBT, you should check out a website called It Gets Better. Dan Savage, an author and one of the best advice columnists in the world, started the It Gets Better Project in 2010 to help prevent suicide among LGBT youth. The website for It Gets Better is www.itgetsbetter.org
For those who are allies of members of the LGBT, you can take the pledge on the website: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”
Genesis Family Empowerment